Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with people (like f’rinstance John Paul) who have an intensely emotional relationship with Mary. My attitude to the readers of Spirit Daily and those who are deeply enthused about Marian apparitions is “de gustibus”. Far be it from me to get in the way of how God made you and the way in which you related to Our Lady.
Only… I seem to lack the gene for getting all het up about Marian apparitions. I have found the Eucharistic miracle at Betania to be be very helpful to my devotional life and I believe the approved apparitions of the Church are, indeed, legit. But I have never had a big enthusiasm for them. They point us back to a more fervent participation in the normal life of the Church and that’s good enough for me. But there’s not a big emotional spark there and I have no interest in trying to parse the meaning of the Third Mystery or all the other hankering after the Cosmic Inside Scoop that so occupies some folk. There may be something to it all. I don’t know. It just doesn’t grab me as it does some folk.
This is Romans 14 territory. In essential things, unity. In doubtful things, liberty. In all things, charity. For whatever reason, some of us have a passionate affective relationship with Mary or some saint. More power to you! You do it in honor of the Lord. Some of us have a real faith in the gift God gave us in our Lady when he said, “Behold your Mother”. We honor her. We do our best to imitate her faith. We seek her intercession and try to “Do whatever he tells you” as she said to do. But the emotional component of the relationship is not particularly strong. That is not a sin. It’s just how some of us are made. We are not to sit in judgement of one another.
For myself, I don’t really know why the emotional relationship with Mary has never sparked. Reading St. Louis de Montfort or some of Augustine’s more purple passages about the Glories of Mary is often a frustratingly dry experience. Reading enthusiasts for Fatima pore over the Secrets and Mysteries has often made me feel like I have a tin ear for the Divine Music. Everybody’s passionate about this stuff but me!
And now I find that Benedict appears to be a kindred spirit. He honors Our Lady but does not appear to be inclined to get too caught up in the emotional whirl of Fatima. I feel affirmed in my okayness!